With 54,459 views and 85 comments begging for more, Soon By You, written and directed by Leah Gottfried and Uri Westrich, is proving to be a star in the making. Dating is undoubtedly an important part of Jewish life, clearly demonstrated by the plethora of dating columns and forums featured in our community papers, with dramatic, tense, heart-wrenching stories and shidduch situations that easily make people blanch at the thought of entering the dating scene. The directors and cast of Soon By You set out to help lighten the mood, and not only do viewers like what they see, dating counselors and professionals believe it has benefits as well.
The series follows six Modern Orthodox singles in New York City as they navigate the dating scene, dealing with set-ups, mess-ups, and, particularly in the first episode, mix-ups. “Think ‘Friends’, but with Jews,” says Daniel Hoffman, who plays David in the episodes and also helps write and produce the show, “Srugim, but in New York,” says Jessica Schechter, a stand-up comedian and certified theatre teacher.
“I was watching a lot of Srugim [a popular Israeli TV show about Modern Orthodox singles],” says Gottfried, “and I saw it had such a large audience. I thought: All my friends are going through this, the pressure and the awkward stories… why not create something here? There is so much material to draw from.” Mutual friends connected Gottfried and Westrich.
“We talked about the idea, then took a couple of months to develop, write, and re-write,” says Gottfried. With the compelling prospect of a unique new project, it didn’t take much to get a cast and crew on board. “I became even more confident in the project due to Leah’s professionalism,” says Hoffman. “I had been on a number of haphazard-seeming sets before, but this felt more legit. Leah made sure to get a professional crew, and ran her shoot efficiently and smoothly. When she told me about her plans to expand the project into a series, I knew I wanted to be more involved.”
“Leah and I had gotten together over coffee, and she was talking to me about this new project she started,” recalls Schechter. “I told her I would really like to get involved.”
The series is much more than mere entertainment. “We want people who watch to know they’re not alone,” says Schechter, who also notes that this is truly an exciting time in one’s life, full of surprises, for better or for worse, and a sense of excitement. “We want people to enjoy and find humor in this time of their life.”
“I think, and hope, the show provides a sense of comradery,” says Gottfried. “It can be a strenuous process. So many people feel pressured to settle down at a young age. We want to give an accurate, real view into the Modern Orthodox dating community, and also make it not so serious.”
With only one episode produced, it has already done just that. “As psychotherapists and dating and relationship coaches working with singles, we know firsthand how isolating and frustrating the Orthodox dating process can be,” says Jennifer Mann, LCSW and mediator of the Navidators column featured in The Jewish Home. “So we encourage our clients to approach this chapter with a positive attitude and a sense of humor, and the premise of the series certainly combines those ideal perspectives.”
Jewish entertainment, in more ways than one, differs from secular entertainment in that there is a greater need to present material with sensitivity. Soon By You has thus far accomplished that as well. “I found it funny and quite accurate, most especially in a nuanced way,” noted Avital Chizik, a journalist for Tablet Magazine, The Forward, and a teacher of journalism at Stern College for Women, who has also written articles regarding dating and the shidduch crisis. “It was not mocking, criticizing or praising a single perspective, person, hashkafa, etc., but was tastefully and simply portraying the reality.”